As an R.E. teacher I really like Smart's writing. He has an extensive and detailed grasp of the main world religions (and their derivatives even to some extent too). He has an open-minded approach to them and aims to study them using "empathetic phenomenology". Therefore he is neither going at them from a faith perspective nor from a cold seperated sense of superiority. If you want to have a decent degree of literacy and knowledge regarding the main world religions and a good working insight into what religion is then this is perhaps the book to consult. Ninian Smart believes (I think) that the world religions are to some extent complementary in explaining the different nuances of an inexpressible reality (etc.) I agree, there is too much entrenchment in one sided/ short sighted dogmatism. Smart helps us to glimpse the bigger picture. He is, in my opinion and experience, clear, concise, easy to follow and yet profound.
I undertook a BA degree in Theology at Lampeter University in the early 1990's and one of the books recommended for pre course reading was Ninian Smarts' The religious Experience of Mankind. It is an excellent read for those wishing to glean a basic understanding of a variety of 'religions'. Mankind, or perhaps what would be now termed as 'humankind', has evolved in a variety of global settings, each with its own culture. We are all products of our own environments and this may be seen to be connected and evident within our experiences of God. Ninian Smarts' take on this is well presented within this little book. His words are concise, easy to interpret, with no leanings towards gobbledegook. It is an excellent quick reference work and to my mind 'a little gem', hence my reasoning behind purchasing it to enjoy familiarising myself with it second time around.